WASHINGTON – Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following statement at the beginning of today’s House Judiciary Committee markup.
Below are the remarks as prepared:
Ranking Member Doug Collins: Mr. Chairman, before we begin today, I must point out the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border rages on, and this committee – which has jurisdiction over immigration – has done nothing to address the problem. So many family units are crossing the border that border patrol is being forced simply to release them into America’s interior. House Democrats have denied there’s a humanitarian or security crisis while blaming President Trump for outrageous conditions at the border, but they’ve taken no steps to address this crisis.
Instead, Democrats have moved to issue subpoenas that, for several reasons, I cannot support.
First, the subpoena for the Mueller report and its underlying evidence commands the attorney general to do the unthinkable — break the law. The attorney general’s entire mandate is to enforce the law, and he’s expressly forbidden from providing grand jury material outside of the department, with very limited and narrow exceptions. Congress is not one of those exceptions, and the chairman knows it. In 1998, in the wake of the Starr report, the chairman described grand jury material as “material that by law . . . must be kept secret. It’s grand jury material. It represents statements which may or may not be true by various witnesses, salacious material, all kinds of material that it would be unfair to release.”
But now a different political landscape compels the chairman to adopt new standards of fairness, ignore existing law and demand the material he once considered “unfair to release.” As much as the chairman or I may want to view this material, it is a fundamental underpinning of our justice system and law that we cannot. In the face of laws and rules he finds inconvenient, the chairman demands our nation’s top law enforcement official break the law instead of supporting him in enforcing it. This is reckless. It’s irresponsible. It’s disingenuous.
It is also confusing since the attorney general is doing exactly what he sa, id he would be doing – making as much of the report public as possible under federal law and department policy. The regulations written by Janet Reno and other Democrats don’t require him to do this – but in the name of transparency, he is. He may even furnish us the report as early as next week. Yet the chairman plows ahead.
Second, the subpoenas aimed at five individuals are completely misguided. Quite simply, they are to the wrong people. Two of these individuals are cooperating with this ill-advised investigation and have provided nearly 3,000 pages of documents. The chairman is rewarding this cooperation by announcing their subpoenas before even notifying their lawyers.
The other three individuals responded to Chairman Nadler’s initial inquiry and have also indicated a willingness to cooperate. Democrats never followed up with their lawyers either. These three individuals could not have any documents responsive to the original request, because those responsive documents all came during their time in the White House, making them presidential records. None of these three have custody of responsive documents, and the chairman knows this, too.
Why would he ignore such obvious facts? Because Judiciary Democrats conduct oversight via press release. Their investigation into 81 Trump associates has yielded no dividends. After one month, the only revelation is something we knew already — Democrats have embarrassed themselves with pre-judged conclusions that the president has obstructed justice.
Now, some Democrats have acknowledged it’s time to stop grinding political axes and govern. Yet my friends across the dais are eager for headlines, so they’re issuing subpoenas to five individuals associated with the president – despite the fact the special counsel spent nearly two years examining exactly what House Democrats are fishing for here and despite the fact nearly 30 others who received Chairman Nadler’s letters haven’t responded at all.
So, the message is clear: if you cooperate with this committee, you will get a subpoena. If you ignore it, Democrats will return the favor. This seems like a counterintuitive way to conduct oversight.
Third, today’s markup constitutes the biggest abuse of congressional subpoena power since the Oversight Committee launched a bevy of unfounded subpoenas at the Clinton Administration. The subpoenas today run counter to any type of accommodations process. Instead, the Chairman is using the most potent tool in his arsenal without even talking to the lawyers representing any of these individuals – individuals who have, up to this point, cooperated.
Let’s pause. Why is the chairman doing this? Because even full compliance from these individuals wouldn’t satisfy him. He wants to sue in federal court for these documents, even if he already has them. He’s picking the fight because fighting makes good headlines, and because his caucus is desperate for dirt on this president.
Without facts on their side, Democrats have put all their hope in optics. There is no legislative purpose to these subpoenas, but there is a lesson. The chief and most fruitful charge of this committee is lawmaking, and no one waiting for immigration, criminal justice, or patent reform thinks it’s fair to see these issues neglected in exchange for subpoenaing Hope Hicks. Why do Democrats?
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